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In the jungle

Iquitos, Peru


Iquitos and the Amazon. Tue 9th- Sun 14th

What an adventure we have had!!! The Amazon has the been the most amazing part of the trip thus far, as all who read will soon see. Again, we've broken our sights and activities down into days to make it easier for the readers understanding and comfort.

Tuesday


We flew into Iquitos (pronounced Ekeetos), which is said to be the biggest city unreachable by land. In order to get to this prime exotic location, you would have to fly which will take one hour thirty minutes from Lima or catch a boat which will set you back four and a half days from Brazil. When coming in by plane the place looks...interesting- the roads are filled with moto-cars, ‘touk-touks', motorbikes that have a two wheeled carriage attached to them. We were picked up by Cumaceba Amazon Tours, the company that we had booked our Amazon trip with in the nations capital Lima. The company was great, helped us find a hostel and dropped us and our bags there. When we were settled, we decided to go for a walk around the 'city'. Its right next to the river and is all hustle and bustle around the main square, with the shanty town of Belen built on stilts right next to the hub. It can be seen as a poor village that is on the river, and depending on the season, rainy or dry, its either surrounded by water or on part of the townscape, but we're sure if we were a local beauty wouldn't be too hard to find, or buy. When on the boulevard looking at the 19th century architecture, a man came and had a chat to us and told us a bit about the city. His name was “Jeorge”, and he told us that he worked at the local museum. He offered to show us around Iquitos and to help us buy the bits and pieces we needed. We knew we would have to pay him, but it saved us trying to find stuff and having to ask for shit in Spanish. He showed us around a bit of the city and was a good guide, he talked about the history of Iquitos and also about the local plants and foods in the area.
First of all Jorge showed us the Belen markets, whic were a smelly, cramped place where the local denizens sell everything from kids toys, oils, roots, drinks made from these concoctions, raw chicken and fish that were just sitting out on bits of wood in the sun, to rare and endangered species, puma cubs, monkeys (not that we saw any of these, we were just told that they aren't hard to find there). We saw a big pile of rubbish that you needed to walk around that smelt of raw 'carne' , fishguts and fruits of which the slum dogs were eating there way through. It wasn’t our favourite place you could say. Then to top it all off as I was getting my camera out for a picture a guy came past me and ever so quickly and ripped my gold necklace from my neck and ran towards the river. Everyone gasped. Jeorge, the guide ran after him to no avail. I was okay, I hurt my knuckle and finger tho somehow in the haze of the violation- this experience certainly taught us a valuable lesson worth more that the stolen necklace- trust no-one. The silly thing was, we had been warned about this, and even Francis (our Spanish teacher back in Hervey Bay), had told us to take seemingly expensive items off because this sort of thing might happen (she is so going to tell us off now!!). We were intending to be cautious- we just didn’t think that we needed to be so mindful so early. So, Fancis if you are reading we have learnt, but hey it wasn’t passports or wallets or bags...yet, and we ARE on very high alert now. We can safey say we’re not going back to those markets.
After our excitement we decided to go back to our room and calm down, cool down. We ate dinner at the Yellow Rose of Texas, a restaurant that serves Peruvian and American food, great when you need a break from Pollo (chicken) and arroz (rice).

Wednesday.



We were picked up early by Cumaceba and given another little town tour by our guide, Dixon. Lucky, he didn’t take us to the markets, he just pointed them out, we think he knew what would happen. We then took a hour boat ride to get to the lodge that was next to the Amazon and let us tell you folks - this place was beautiful. As soon as we got there we instantly felt relaxed. As soon as you walk down the mounted, woven leaf covered, walk way, ala the tv show Survivor, you find a main room where everyone comes to eat and listen to Spanish guitar playing at night, then a bit further- paradise- separate little bungalows with insect screens, cold showers, a gas latern and not much else. We dropped our stuff off, and organised our gumboots for hire, which were mandatory because of the snakes and mud.
Our first excursion was a Amazon jungle trek. We walked out of the lodge grounds and into the Amazon! That was pretty cool. Dixon explained about all the flowers and trees and plants, giving Spanish, English and Latin names for them all. Thankfully there weren’t many creepy crawlies out at all. Pete held a Millipede which shat on him, suck shit, and we saw millions of ants carrying leafs to take back to their greedy lump of a queen (one of the select few that I could actually stand). We saw big old trees and plants used to help for liver failure, back pains and even curing cancer!

We went back to the lodge for lunch. All the meals were Peruvian flavours, each meal came with rice (Mums, please don’t cook us rice when we get home!!) and these simple salads of either red onion, capsicum and lemon, or tomato, cucumber, lettuce and ’jungle spaghetti’. We can’t tell you what it is exactly, but I thinks it’s a root, stripped to long thin pieces and either boiled or just broken down in lemon. We either had catfish or chicken and all meat served with banana, cooked some way or another. Fresh fruit was for dessert and the pineapple was insane.

After lunch we got a couple of hours to relax, either in our cabins, or in the hammock area, which is just another word for afternoon nap!! It was brilliant. We then went to the best place of all, an animal refugee place that holds a few different types of animals, but mainly monkeys! We got off the boat, walked a little, then were greeted by about four monkeys that just wanted to climb over us (there was eight of us) and either bite us or steal our glasses. They were hilarious and so much fun, one was licking Pete’s eyelid and putting his fingers up Pete’s nose. I had one trying to eat my hair. They completely used us as a jungle gym and hung from our arms and wrapped themselves around our necks, and fought with each other.
They also had Toucans, a Sloth (which we held but he was not impressed at all), two Achunis, which are from the Racoon family and very shy. We, well, I, got to hold an alligator and a Matamata, which is a prehistoric turtle. They also had an anaconda and a boa constrictor which were very big but only babies! We didn’t hold them. We were then taken to a little bar area and were given seven roots to try, a local drink made from roots of the Amazon. Apparently also used as an aphrodisiac. Not that we noticed that when we bought a bottled. We just thought it tasted interesting! So we were off again after that, not before we had more cuddles and we got very attached to one little monkey that seemed to get very attached to me and want to cuddle into me. Pete thinks its because I've got tits, and he saw one of the guides laughing and pointing at them.

We went back to the lodge, had dinner (chicken and rice), and were off again for a night time canoe ride in the lagoon right next to the lodge. It was a little canoe, powered by Dixon's paddling that seemed to be at risk of tipping over if there was too much movement. We went out to listen to the noises of the night and look for alligators. It was so mystical, we had or torches out and could look out at the black water and at the gloomy-looking trees and shrubs. On our way down the lagoon we were ordered to turned off all our touches and had to stop talking so we might be able to see the alligators. We were told to look for their eyes which glow in the moonlight and Dixon's touchlight. Fact- alligators are more shy then their Australian brothers the crocodile). Taking that in mind we didn't see shit. In the dark we could only be deafened by the onimous sounds of the giant turtles, notural birds and frogs, nothing overly scary, unless your name is Carol Blakelock...(just joking- Pete). There were also the biggest fireflies flying through the trees, all we could see was this big light moving around. Just before we got back to the lodge, we finally saw some red dots in the light of Dixon's torch that were Alligator eyes. Not much to look at, but....yeah not much at all really. The gang (Our tourist troop- two Sweds, a pair of Italians, a couple of Peruvians and yours truely) went back to our bungalows, the route being lit by candles as there was no electricity, and our gas lamp left at our door. We went to our bed and listened to all the noises of the jungle. We then had to put in our ear plugs because of all the noises of the jungle!!!

Thursday.

We had to wake up for a 6am outing, bird watching was on the cards, and on the same lagoon we were on the night before. We only get up that early now to catch planes, nobody told Dixon though! Despite out cold shower wakeup call, it was another beautiful morning, and so great to be able to see the lagoon in the daylight. We saw so many different birds, none of which we know the names of, oh wait their was an eagle which the locals call ‘old woman’ due to its white scalp, there you go! The lagoon had parts covered by sea lettuce, small flower like green plants that make it look like your not floating on water at all but some overgrown cricket pitch. It was a perfect morning out, and so peaceful, without the sounds of traffic in our ears we couldn’t get over the quietness of it all.

After the early start, we had our breakfast and a couple of hours off before our next adventure, going to visit the local Yagua tribe. We walked for a bit, through the jungle again and past banana plantations, sugar cane and a quaint, overly simple house. Really it was just a roof with a floor, hammock and a place where there was a fire with a pot on it for cooking, and this as to house a family of four. That was a bit of shock, and a big eye opener. Peter came to thinking where was the space to keep the real 'fire' alive? In the bush with the real snakes? No wonder the girls round her start early, monkey see....We ended up at the meeting place for this tribe, a big marquee area that was covered by big leaves. The villagers were in traditional dress, flax skirts and head dresses made of flax and feathers, the chief having the best one of course.

We were greeted and then covered in red ‘paint’ that came from the bulb of a plant and each marking was to show if you were married or single. We then had to do a dance with them, which, too be honest, wasn’t really much of a dance, it was pretty shitty. Some of the villagers played music and one- by- one we were grabbed by a different villager and they walked us in a circle around the marquee. That was it. No movements or even rhythm, just walking awkwardly around a pole with a perfect stranger. This notwithstanding, Dancing with the Stars is lame compared to this spectical though. Pete says he just needs and title for the show and its a winner. So for all of you in Blogland with nothing better to do...come up with a title for this new dancing show concept and be in the running to will win a authentic bracelet made by no other than the tribe itself!!


After the dancing they took us to a clearing next to the marquee where they showed us how to use a traditional blow gun. The tribe use this to catch animals, that cover each little arrow in the poison from a frog or snake and it is from this that they are able to kill jungle rats and pigs. So we got a demonstration and then all got a chance to try it. Pete went first and, well, sucked massively. Our aim was a wooden pole made to look like a person and he didn’t get any. I had my turn next and got all 3!! It was a pretty good joke in our little group for awhile afterward.
After having a laugh at trying the blow gun, the tribes people then got to try to sell us all there jewellery and ornaments that they made from seeds, shells, bones and teeth. This part was full on. They all come at you, shoving their work in your hands and not taking it back, just asking you for money. We couldn’t really move, they were in our face. Pete was yelling out to me to help him, I had necklaces and masks and bracelets all over my arms and fingers. We bought a bit of stuff off them (we were pretty much sucked in actually). As we were leaving we were trying to put sunscreen on and all the little ones were coming up to us with their hands open, wanting some cream to put on their skin. We gave them all some cream and they rubbed it in, even tho they didn’t need it! We got the boat back to the lodge, had really good showers (the weather was pretty hot) and some lunch- fish and rice, followed by another afternoon siesta in the hammocks.

That afternoon we went for another walk into the jungle to a little nearby village that had a school and a big field. The boys in our group played soccer on the green and all the locals ended up coming and playing with them. They were running around and falling over each other and having a great time. The local women were playing bingo on a nearby seat under a tree. The beautiful thing about this place was the real sense of community that we felt. We sat on a chair by the school and watched the scene. There was no one doing a show and dance for us, no one trying to get anything from us, just people, a community, doing what they do. We got to see them just being, and it was a really lovely thing. The next village over had neat little bugalows by the river for sale. When you get to know the beauty of the area and have an extended supply of aeroguard, we can safely say that one could get a little tempted at the offer.


We got a boat back to the lodge for dinner, you guessed it rice and chicken! and a relaxed, early evening. Some of the group went on a night hunt for spiders and snakes and scorpions, we decided to sit that one out- I knew it would freak me out too much, and that from opting out I would safe myself from having to be on the lookout from creepy crawlies for the rest of our trip.

Friday


We had a sleep in until breakfast to then go fishing for piranhas! We went on a little boat and used sticks with fishing line and hooks attached and bait made of breadcrumbs and meat. It was a peaceful, warm morning and so relaxing. Only one piranha was caught, but I caught a small sardine which was going to be used for bait but jumped out of the boat before we could use it! It was fun and entertaining seeing everyone’s exasperation as they tried to catch fish but failed. Pete sat most of the time, not fishing, in sheer frustration by it all, especially when he broke his rod on 'the one that got away'! (See picture for more insight). We spent a good couple of hours out there and came back to the lodge with a little time to spare before lunch. At lunch the man who caught the piranha was served it cooked for lunch! We all got to try a bit and it was actually very tasty.

Half of our group was leaving after lunch as they were on a shorter trip then us. We said our goodbyes and joined up with another group for the afternoon to go back to the monkeys! We absolutely loved that place and Dixon made it possible for us to visit again. And so again we hung out with our new little friends, and the lodge’s dog, Drako, came with us this time. He was funny with the monkeys, one of them was teasing him pretty bad and grabbing his tail so they were having play fights. Another little spider monkey even tried to have sex with him! That was hilarious. The Achunis were quite taken with the dog and followed him around everywhere and cuddled up to him. We couldn’t touch them, but they loved Drako. We got to hold the Toucan this time and even got close to the spider monkeys- except one started biting Pete’s ear and head pretty hard. I had to push him off Pete and keep pushing him away with my shoe- he was a feisty little thing.

When our time was up there we went up the Amazon a bit more to look for pink dolphins. They are exclusive to the Amazon river only and have bumps on their head and are a dark pink colour. We only know this cause we’ve seen pictures of them, we didn’t learn that from seeing them in the river that day. We saw a couple of dorsal fins coming out of the water, and that was about it. They're shit too. We were hoping for more, but alas you can’t have everything!

We got back to the lodge for a another bit of quiet time before dinner-something different- chicken and rice! After dinner Dixon took the two of us on a night jungle walk. It was pretty freaky not being able to see anything apart from what the torch showed us, and I was yelping at the smallest thing- a bug in my face, a leaf I didn’t see touching my arm.

We saw a couple of tarantulas, a really big gecko, the longest trail of leaf carrying ants ever (it was pretty remarkable) and the scariest, ugliest looking something that Dixon liked to call a spider-scorpion. It looked extremely mean and apparently was quite mean too poisonous and deadly to humans. We didn’t get a photo because we didn’t want to stand to close and be there too long next to it. After that we both were paranoid about everything and was actually quite happy when we saw the candles of the lodge and the arse end of the jungle.
We finished our last night with a couple of drinks in the eating area by candlelight with Dixon telling us Amazonian myths. Apparently Pete is the dolphin demon of the river who snaches little girls!!! Dixon was great and up for a laugh and made the trip extremely memorable.

Saturday


We packed our bags in the morning and went out on another boat ride to a small village a little further away were there was a alligator and paiche farm. Paiche’s are really, really big fish the locals farm to sell for meat for a shit load of money...well $160 soles, which is quite a bit. They looked like the chinese luck fish we saw in Hong Kong. We dropped pieces of little chopped up fish in the water for them to eat, they were so fast and would suck them off the surface of the water with a big noise and splash. We then had a little walk through the village, a local gave us a coconut to try and Dixon cut it up for us, it didn’t taste like real coconut. The day was so hot, it was sticky and sweaty and we had the coldest, nicest beer from a little shop which looked just like a shed. It was a very simple town, but had a nice feel to it.

We went back to the lodge for our last lunch and keeping with tradition we ate fish and rice, and then we were rushed back to Iquitos, which saw the end of our amazing Amazon adventure. Sigh. We really weren’t ready to leave, we could’ve stayed there for another couple of days, even if it was just reading and falling asleep in the hammocks. We will most definatly miss the quietness and calmness that the Amazon offers, no car horns here, and the natural beauty that we were surrounded by. Every day the river looked different with the changes in the weather and we never felt bored of it. But, it was to be my birthday the next day, and, well, we’ll save that one for the next entry! Hope you’ve enjoyed our little Amazon journey. Until next time (which should be sooner rather than later, maybe), love Rochelle + Pete xx

Oh and remember to send in your entries in to Pete's Jungle Boogy competition to win rare prizes from mysterious and wonderous parts of the world. Get creative. Entries close on the 9th of December for no particular reason!!




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permalink written by  Pete+Rochelle on November 17, 2010 from Iquitos, Peru
from the travel blog: Round the world!!!
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Tv show titles by Brian: Jungle Fever, The Topless Titi Tango, Circle Jerk (ok that one was uncalled for), Sphericle Somba, um...how about The Native Bone Selling Shuffle, The People in the Village Go Round n Round, or simply The Village Round n Round, and last but not least, the it's 1130pm and i can't sleep because I have that stupid Cee Lo Green song stuck in my head so I read your blog so as to bore myself into unconsciousness but instead became captivated by how awesome the Amazon sounds...show. Damn you and your amazing stories.

permalink written by   Brian towles on November 21, 2010

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